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Simple Rules for Wine and Food Pairings

Pairing wine with food is not always so easy.  Walk into many wine and spirits stores, and you will likely encounter a dizzying array of selections. While wine selections at such stores were once limited to a few well-known brands, many niche and private wineries have begun to make their vintages available to a wider clientele, so now shoppers are treated to both familiar and less well-known options.

Mackinaw Valley Vineyard retails at many stores in the area but a visit to the vineyard to sample wine is always a great option, tasting wines at a local vineyard always makes for a fun outing.  Our tasting room usually has about 20 wines to sample with white, blush and red wines available.


To novice dinner party hosts, the vast array of wines and flavors can make selecting a bottle or two to accompany a meal a bit more challenging. But one need not be a master sommelier to find the right pairing. The following tips can help anyone select wines to go with their menu or the type of occasion.

• Work from light to dark. Just as you begin a dinner service with some appetizers and salad before moving to heavier courses, the wine should follow suit. Select lighter wines to accompany the earlier course before opting for deeper, richer wines as the meal progresses.


• Consider white, blush or rosé wines to accompany appetizers and opening courses. Sometimes a sweeter wine pairs well with salty or spicy foods, which is why it is often a good match for hors d’oeuvres. If you are hosting a cocktail party only, you may want to exclusively serve white, blush or rosé wines which typically pair well with passed finger foods and even bite-sized desserts.


• A white wine like Seyval blanc is a great pairing when you do not want the flavor of the wine to overwhelm the food. Seyval blanc works with early courses that pack a flavorful punch. Seyval blanc can be citrusy or tropical in flavoring, depending on the region in which the grapes were grown.  On our Central Illinois vineyard it is light, citrusy and crisp wine, fresh in flavor and is often recommended with sushi.

• Match delicate seafood dishes with light wines that are delicately flavored and will pair well with seafood. Fish that is served in a rich sauce may be better matched with a heartier white wine like our Priscilla’s Passion a dry white wine blend with a light touch of French oak similar to a chardonnay.

• Make rosé or blush wine your go-to wine when serving cheese. Although some cheeses work great with white or red wines, the blush or rosé wines are a more balanced pairing when serving cheese because of its acidity and fruity character, offering the best of both worlds. The vineyard serves three blush wines: Carly’s Creation, Diane’s Desire, and Nicole’s Blush, that are wonderful to pair with cheeses and fruits.

• Hearty meats, such as steaks and chops, pair well with rich reds.  Mackinaw Valley vineyard is known for a large selection of full bodied dry, off dry and sweet red table wines that are great when paired with meat dishes.  These wines are blends of several grape varietals grown on the property. Many people enjoy our Alexander’s Conquest, Eric’s Red and Mackinaw Reserve and these wines hold their own if meats are spiced and extremely flavorful. One of our red wines is made from Frontenac which was the first French American hybrid grape developed for our cold climate cultivation and wine making. It is an excellent red wine and a recommended pick to try when you visit the vineyard.

• Finding a wine from the same region from which the meal ingredients originated is always fun, and with the local farm to table movement that has become popular. Our locally grown grapes provide that experience for those “Foodies” that value a new experience on their palate with full flavored or light bodied wines that can work with many types of food and styles of cooking.

Though some people follow a strict personal code regarding wine pairings, your personal tastes should dictate what you ultimately serve. Experimentation can yield an unexpected flavor combination that complements the nuances of both the food and the wine. What better place to experiment then a visit to a local winery and vineyard.


As Mackinaw Valley Vineyard and Winery celebrates 15 years of business, we welcome you to visit and enjoy locally grown and made wines, check out our upcoming events,and learn more about our award-winning vineyard by visiting MackinawValleyVineyard.com or by calling (309) 359-WINE.  Visit our winery to taste a full complement of our Illinois wines; we have about 20 different wines featured in our tasting room. Guests may sample 3 complimentary tastings.




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